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Mad Men: Who Needs Convention?

Boss sleeps with secretary: It’s a cliché that's pretty much old as television itself. Thus when Mad Men's Don Draper, drunk as a skunk, grabbed his secretary’s hand last night and pulled her in for a kiss, I wanted him to be rejected immediately. So far this season, we’ve seen Don philander between women, but his usual mojo had yet to make an appearance. It just wouldn’t be like Mad Men, I told myself, to let him have this one. Yet Don got his girl, and I was briefly disappointed.

But leave it to Mad Men, a show that's off to a brilliant convention-bending fourth-season start, to take that old cliché and make it feel new. For there was no triumph in Don’s face when he finished. He was still a sad old man, deflated on his couch and, in the words of his other underlings, “pathetic.” And the act itself didn’t herald the beginning of a fiery, secret courtship, but another chance for Don to keep acting like a stubborn little boy. In a moment of weakness, he did something he regretted—but rather than own up to his mistake, he pretended like nothing happened. He even attempted to smooth things over with a hefty Christmas bonus. The look on her face went from joy to confusion to horror, just as the expressions of the two-piece swimsuit clients’ did when Don threw his childish tantrum in last week's season premiere. Don has completely forgotten how to earn respect, and this disastrous boss-boinks-secretary scenario was the perfect way to show it.

Always one to sulk in Don’s shadow, Peggy faced her own struggles with convention. Her boyfriend was eager to take their relationship to the next level (boning), and Freddy Rumsen—who returned last night after sobering up in the aftermath of last year's pants-wetting incident—shoved his own ideas about women in her face. She fought off her boyfriend’s advances and put Freddy in his place, only to admit that she didn’t want to be alone come New Year’s Eve. It seems she is able to challenge specific people’s expectations, but can’t dodge those that are deeply rooted in the world around her. In order to reconcile this illogical desire (which is ironic, given it’s a lot like the ones she writes for ad campaigns all the time), she has to make concessions: Peggy slept with her boyfriend and apologized to Freddy. She voluntarily gave in to the cliché.

But not only did “Christmas Comes But Once a Year” find the unexpected in the expected—as it also did with Roger’s resentment to his major suck-up Santa session—it also contained the wildly unexpected and creepy story of Glenn and Sally. Glenn’s crush on Betty was sweet at first, then tragic, and now borders on stalkerish. Why else would he befriend Sally out of nowhere? Well, because Betty is with another man, and if he can’t have her, he’s going to get rid of the Draper family all-together—under the pretense of doing right by Sally. (Or perhaps he’s content with taking second place and marrying Sally some day?)

The beauty of this fourth season so far is in the way it’s taken tumultuous situations, a new agency, and a new family, and made them even more chaotic. I haven’t been this reservation-free excited about Mad Men since season one. 

What did you think of Sunday's episode? How are you liking the season so far?

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i agree i dont think glenn will kill the ex draper family....is that wat they are????..... but further along that boy is going to snap probably after he and sally get closer and when he does according to this show no one will notice and if they do they wont even care jus probably ship him off somewhere and that will be the end of glenn
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Something tells me Glenn is not going to kill Betty and her family, a little over the top and that is so not Mad Men. I know that seems to be the theme this year but to add a serial killer to the show, no. I feel like Glenn and Sally will have something going on but it will turn bad because Glenn is mentally psycho and no one seems to notice or care.
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I am missing alot of the old characters, but the season is starting off pretty good anyways.
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I miss Sal and Paul, but I'm really digging this new direction the show has taken. Don's the protagonist, but he's not supposed to be a hero or villain. His split lives have changed, too; in public Don is a brilliant ad executive, but at home he's a lonely, drunken schnook.
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Great episode but I was expecting the aftermath of Don's article on the Wall Street Journal. Apparently it didn't concern anyone the actions that they took to be able to open their new company. I didn't remember Glenn's crush on Betty but if what he's doing its to split Betty with her new dude I'm all for it cause I don't like him at all. Team Don 4ever!
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Looking at the old money was quite a thrill. Always the details
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nice read...
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nice read...
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I thought it was a jarring episode. I think its something of a miracle that the show has maintained the level of excitement and uncertainty i had going into this season. Mad Men's inclination towards warping its audience's expectations and predictions has always been one of the joys of watching the program, but as you mentioned, the theme of upheaval this year has truly exaggerated that level of surprise and depth. I look forward to seeing what Weiner and his writers cook up this year. My only hope is that Don adapts and succeeds sooner rather than later, on at least a professional level, so that his ample downer moments are punctuated by redeeming triumph- a trait of the character that has likely kept me invested above all others.
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I miss Sal. That is all.
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